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Funding for movements should be accountable to those movements. People directly impacted by injustice, especially formerly incarcerated people, should be leaders of their own liberation movement. We cannot move forward as a society without the transformation of both systems and selves. We value our funding model as a way to do both. Our work is based on the belief that each of us has more to bring to social justice work if we bring our whole selves. We each have more to offer than expertise, money, connections, or only one part of our identity.


We believe that part of the violence of privilege and oppression in our society is that it cuts us off from our humanity and our ability to see others as their full human selves. We value the CJI process as one that affirms the wholeness, gifts and strengths of each of us in our uniqueness. CJI is an innovative grantmaking collaborative made up of community organizers, activists, donors, and donor-activists. Together we identify, fund, and nurture grassroots organizations led by those most impacted working to transform the criminal legal system in the United States.  Our work falls into four categories:


  • grantmaking

  • political education

  • advocating for the work of our grantees and lifting up their work in funding spaces

  • influencing the field of philanthropy toward holistic solutions that support deep systemic change


The Key Elements of CJI's Collaborative Grant Making


  • Shared decision-making empowers activists to take on large-scale agendas that would not move forward without resources

  • Donors bring diverse skills in the context of shared activist leadership

  • Long-term relationships help sustain resources and organizing efforts

  • Deliberate airing of class, race, gender-related and sexual identity issues, in a manner consistent with participatory justice principles, builds strong relationships and a durable organization

  • Independence of the circle allows for nimble funding decisions in changing political landscapes

CJI has been a powerful partner in BreakOUT!’s work in New Orleans, LA and understands that ending mass incarceration in this country won’t come simply through a couple of policy wins or getting a couple of the right people in office, but rather will take a movement — built from the ground up, with resilient leadership from communities directly impacted by injustices.

— Wesley Ware, Co-Director of BreakOUT!, CJI Grantee

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